Well done England, the leader of the UK - you've managed to pack in the fags, chuck out the tabs and crumble up the ciggies. Smoking rates in the capital of Britain have dropped to their lowest on record. In a way, I feel like our historical industrialists, with their top hats, cigars and children on chains being hurtled up chimneys using an old-timey High Striker game, would be disappointed. They inhaled incomprehensible amounts of smoke and they turned out OK.
Public Health England said that in 2015, 16.9 per cent of adults described themselves as smokers, while in 2012, it was 19.3 per cent, which if you ask me still isn't that high. Cigarettes produce almost 10 per cent of China's total revenue, with 350 million smokers, producing 42 per cent of the world's cigarettes. Come on England, catch up!
Apparently 2.5 million smokers reported trying to stop the supposedly filthy habit and a fifth of them managed it. This is likely, at least in part, to do with the unstoppable rise of vaping, along with other nicotine-imbibing aids like the patches and the gum, which are both very '90s ways of quitting smoking.
There is an argument that the onslaught of anti-smoking legislation is essentially browbeating the English public into not smoking. Pictures of grotesque injury and dead kids, high prices, illegal to advertise, illegal to display, a kind of widespread cultural badmouthing and excision from most media have made a greater difference than perhaps we once thought it would. People will always smoke, you assume, because it's addictive. But now we've replaced that addiction with Nutri-Bullets and talking about our feelings. We're also poor as fuck and can't afford it any more. People would rather smoke something that tastes like a cake covered in doughnuts covered in caramel covered in hundreds of thousands. And maybe that's for the best.
Kingston upon Hull, a place we visited once much to its population's chagrin, is (understandably) the place in England with the highest rate of smokers. In fact, with the exception of Medway, the hardest-puffing regions are all in the north or Midlands. And, in many ways, Medway is the north of the south, so it makes sense. "The best thing a smoker can do for their health is to stop smoking," says Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Gina Radford, in a real 'no shit' moment. "There is more help and support available now than ever before."
Maybe smoking just isn't cool any more. Mad Men tried valiantly to bring it back, but since it went away, the war on smoking has shifted massively in favour of the aggressors. I say leave these poor sticks of death alone, and let people have 20 of them on a night out, massively worsening their hangover and making their mouths feel like there's a mossy cancer growing inside it. Sweet land of liberty!
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